How Certain Affiliate Programs Can Be Bad For SEO

Affiliate Marketing and SEO
Affiliate Marketing is great, more than a tad bit better than many of the other options out there including Google AdSense. We do it. Most blogs today do it. In fact, many people make all of their money by affiliate sales. So evidently, there's nothing wrong with it. But are all sorts of affiliate marketing are legit? Well, no. As we'll discuss in today's post, not all affiliate programs are worth the effort, on account of their modus operandi, and the effect they (might) have on your site's SEO.

The problem

The Google Webmaster quality guidelines generally advise webmasters to create original content on their sites that adds real value for users. This is particularly important for sites that participate in affiliate programs. Why? Typically, affiliate websites feature content related to products that appears on all sites across that affiliate network. This is especially the case with video sites. These sites display content provided by an affiliate program - the same content that is available across hundreds or even thousands of other sites.

What it might mean for your site?

This type of scraped content (content copied or 'scraped' from other sites) is seen by Google as 'thin', i.e. not substantial or something that adds additional value for web users. These sites generally appear to be cookie-cutter sites or templates with no original content. Because a search results page could return several of these sites, all with the same content, thin affiliates create a frustrating user experience. Google warn against running such a site, and can be seen as a violation of its quality guidelines, possibly resulting in a penalty.

If your site syndicates content that’s available elsewhere, you should ask yourself: “Does this site provide useful added benefits that would make it different from all the other websites delivering the same content?” If the answer is “No,” then that means you have some work to do, because a violation could result in a removal of your site from Google's index.

Another problem with affiliate programs is that you risk losing natural inbound links. Affiliate links via 3rd party networks will all typically redirect through their servers which negate the link juice. Too many links from one site or from a bad 'neighbourhood' could harm you as well.

Running an affiliate campaign safely

Not every affiliate is a 'thin' affiliate. In order to ensure that your affiliate program works safely, you can work on the following few steps as recommended by Google.

  • Affiliate content should only form a small part of your site's entire content
  • Make sure your site adds useful value. Ask yourself why a user would want to visit your site instead of the original
  • Create your own unique content around the products you're selling. Write reviews, make comparison diagrams, and so on
  • Make sure the products you're selling are in line with your blog's niche, and will be appreciated by your target audience
  • Use your website to build a community among your users. This will help build a loyal readership, and can also create a source of information on the subject you are writing about. For example, discussion forums, user reviews, and blogs all offer unique content and provide value to users
  • And of course, it goes without saying that in order to keep the visitors on your site, you must keep your content fresh and updated
You might also benefit hugely by reading a few of our other posts on the subject.
Do give these posts a try, and tell us what you've learned, and how these tips will, or have helped in your business. All the best :)

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