There are many factors that affect your website’s search engine rankings. One of the factors is the outbound links you have in your content. Whether Google will harm your site or not partly depends on how many affiliate links you place and what other content you have.

If your website is thin on original content and has lots of outbound affiliate links then it’s highly probable Google and other search engines will frown upon that and rank your website in low positions as a result. The reason is you’re adding very little value for the user.

A depiction of Google lowering a websites rankings in it's search engine
Google dumping your website

Your website should naturally contain a mixture of regular editorial links and affiliate links. What is the best ratio of editorial links to affiliate links? You’ll have to decide that for yourself because every website and niche is different. One strategy to use is to look at your rivals who rank highly and calculate how many affiliate links they publish. Always play it safe if you’re worried and stick with a super low ratio. Perhaps only 1 affiliate link for every 10 editorial links.

To be safe it can be good practice to use the rel attribute and give your outbound affiliate links either the ‘nofollow’ or ‘sponsored’ tag. This shows the search engine Gods that you’re working with them.

The aim of search engines is to meet the user’s needs. It wants to understand the user intent and help them meet their intentions. If the searcher is looking to find the best product in a certain niche, then the search engine will show articles that contain comparisons of the products in that niche.

You’d expect to see links to the products as parts of those articles. They would be less useful if they contained information about the products without details of where to buy the products. Therefore (in theory) Google should rank an identical article higher if it has product links, than compared to without it.

However, does it make a difference if they’re affiliate links or not? It shouldn’t do. Because the link is going to the same webpage and providing the same user experience. It shouldn’t make a negative difference or positive difference in this case.

Remember to always focus on the user experience ultimately first. The aim is to provide useful content for people that helps their buying decisions.

There are many different factors search engines use when deciding where to rank your website, so remember they play a part too, some factors play a huge part, but a good start is always to have healthy practices when it comes to your affiliate links. Don’t fill your pages with affiliate links, don’t cloak the links, and declare that you’re affiliate.

Do I always have to declare that I’m an affiliate on my website?

Yes. If it’s on your own website then you ideally should have a small block of text on each page explaining the content may contain affiliate links that if clicked on could result in you receiving financial benefits. It’s important to also declare you’re an affiliate in your legal pages, such as your terms and conditions page.

Honesty is important for your visitors and the bots, it is a way to build trust. It’s good practice to also explain to users how affiliate links may impact content creation. For example, if you’re creating reviews and aim to be completely unbiased regardless of whether you can get revenue or not by reviewing that product, then it’s healthy to mention that.

Also state that affiliate links don’t impact the price the person clicking on the link will pay, because not all your users may be aware of that.

If you build more trust with users they will spend longer on your website. Google may use ‘dwell time’ as a factor when deciding how high up it should rank a website. So by building trust you may also be boosting your rankings, nice!

In your cookies declaration of your legal pages be sure to also include any tracking cookies related to the affiliate marketing programs you’re using.

If you regularly share affiliate links on social media it’s good practice to briefly mention in your bio that posts may contain affiliate links. Using hashtags can also be good practice.

Google uses attributes to help it understand the links you place in your content. It is wise to at least use the ‘nofollow’ attribute. You can also use the ‘sponsored’ attribute. The ‘sponsored’ attribute was introduced in 2019. You can read more about it in the blog post here.

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