Hiding Affiliate Links For Better SEO

While most bloggers make money with Google AdSense, more and more are discovering the power of affiliate marketing. Affiliate sales was my number three biggest moneymaker last month, accounting for $1,005.00 of the $7,011.05 income.

With the income potential of affiliate marketing, many would be affiliate whores have set up MFA site to take advantage of it. In this case, MFA stands for Made for Affiliate and not Made for AdSense. However, the concept is the same – instead of making sites just for AdSense, the marketer make sites just to promote affiliate deals. The advantage of an affiliate site over a MFA site is content – the affiliate site normally has more, and therefore has a better chance of showing up in a Google search.

Google tends to frown on affiliate only sites because they just try to sell you something while offering very little useful information. In the last year, Google and other search engines has gotten a lot better at detecting affiliate only websites and removing them from the search index. If you run a blog and you offer some affiliate links, the changes of Google removing you is very small (unless your blog is nothing but affiliate links). However, depending on the number of affiliate links Google finds, they may place less trust in your site. That could affect your search ranking. Here is an evil method to remove all the affiliate links from your blog but still take advantage of affiliate marketing.

Doing The Affiliate Wrap

The easiest way to prevent the detection of an affiliate link is with a redirect. Create a new page on your site and link to that page instead of your affiliate link. The page you link to will then redirect the reader to the affiliate site. Here is an example for my affiliate redirect to Text Link Ads (aff).

<html>
<head>
<title>Text Link Ads</title>
<meta name="robots" content="noindex,nofollow">
<script>window.location="http://www.text-link-ads.com/?ref=35183";</script>
<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="1; url=http://www.text-link-ads.com/?ref=35183">
</head>
<body>
<p align="center">You are being taken to the correct page.
<br>If the page does load after 5 seconds,
<a href="http://www.text-link-ads.com/?ref=35183">click here</a>.</p>
</body>
</html>

I saved the above to a file call tla.php and uploaded it to my redirect folder. Now, instead of linking to http://www.text-link-ads.com/?ref=35183, I link to http://www.johnchow.com/go/tla.php.

The redirect has a line of code that tells the robots not to index or follow the link. Since this is not a content page, there is no need for Google to index it. In addition to the above code, I also added the code for my Google Analytics tracking script. This allows me to track the number of clicks I am sending my affiliate pages.

The other advantage of this setup happens when/if your affiliate network changes codes on you. Instead of having to go through your entire site to change all the codes, you just have to change one HTML file. I highly doubt Google will place less trust on me for having a few affiliate links on my blog. However, why take the chance? I’m aiming for a PR7 on the next PageRank update so anything I can do to increase trust will help.


72 thoughts on “Hiding Affiliate Links For Better SEO”

  1. BlueFur.com says:

    Speaking of Affiliate Links.

    Why are you not using Feedvertise for your RSS?

    1. John Chow says:

      I do use Feedvertiser. They finally sold an ad for the RSS feed! :mrgreen:

      1. ilker says:

        Yeah, what is the conditions for that?

        1. I wish there was a WordPress plugin that would automatically create these affiliate redirect pages and links for you…

      2. BlueFur.com says:

        Why not add a free one and sell your affiliate products?

        You can see from our RSS that we sell our own products using Feedvertise.

  2. Ali says:

    Clever trick, not a new practice though. I have seen redirects around for years.

    Still a good one, I actually forgot about it.

    1. Stuart says:

      Seems all bloggers are blogging about this. ๐Ÿ‘ฟ

    2. Yea but most people are still ignorant about this. It is great that many bloggers are blogging about this to get the notice around.

    3. Marc says:

      I can certainly see the maintenance value in this, but I think the SEO value’s a bit of a stretch provided you’re being reasonable with aff links. That is just an opinion though.

      1. I think you’re probably right about the SEO value, but I still gave it a try just in case.

  3. John you’ve done it again! Great tip, I’m going to try out that redirect with Analytics.
    Also, check out this new affiliate marketing strategy by Shoemoney and MediaWhiz(Text Link Ads parent company) called on my blog. Sounds like John has been a beta tester for this service and a ReviewMe review is coming soon. ๐Ÿ˜ˆ

  4. Jason says:

    So simple … so devious … so evil ๐Ÿ˜ˆ

    Seriously though, a very good tip to keep Google from downgrading your site over a few legitimate affiliate links.

    1. jez says:

      I was thinking of using this on a directory site a while back, I wanted to give people a backlink, but as recipricol links are supposed to cancel each other out, thought of doing this to get my own page rank up, didnt bother in the end…

      1. Do recipricol links really cancel each other out? This would the first I heard of it. A real fact?

        1. They aren’t as valuable as one-way links.

        2. Marc says:

          They don’t cancel each other out, but it certainly their value has certainly been nerfed as of late. I personally wouldn’t spend too much time and energy on reciprocal links for SEO value alone.

    2. I agree.. But I wonder, if Google hears of this, who knows what step they would take to ‘counter’ this once again!

      1. Marc says:

        This isn’t a big fish to fry from Google’s perspective.

  5. Tyler says:

    If you called the file a *.php why don’t you use any PHP in it?

    You’re just using META refreshes/Redirects.

    PHP has a lovely function for manipulating the header. Header();

    So pretty much you can do it in like 2 lines of code:

    Save as tla.php and when someone clicks on the link to the tlp.php file they will be moved directly to your (aff) site. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Tyler says:

      OMG it took out my php code ๐Ÿ˜‰

      you’d need:

      header(“Location: http://www.text-link-ads.com/?ref=35183“);
      exit();

      as your tla.php file

      1. jez says:

        If your using php you may as well pass the destination url as a parameter, and have the php file forward to that URL, that way, you could pass one page many urls and be sent wherever you wanted, though, John has a good point about only having to update an address in one place if the afilliate changes URL…

        1. Addresses with the destination URI as a parameter will look even less “clean” than the original affiliate link, though.

          1. But, that is the whole point if you want to bypass Google on this issue, isn’t it? It has its benefits too.

    2. Tyler says:

      Ok now I’m just spamming..

      Though John’s code example is nice if your browser doesn’t handle redirects since it had a click link too.. and it also stops spyders from crawling ๐Ÿ˜‰

      I’m done.. I could make the php file like the html but I dont wana be a post whore

    3. John Chow says:

      I call it .php because I wanted to look 1337 ๐Ÿ˜›

      1. Tyler says:

        haha!

        If only you were super l337 you could tell Apache to look for .moto or .evil or even .god files ๐Ÿ˜‰

        1. ilker says:

          John is 1337 nonetheless!

          1. Nevertheless, I concur with you too! ๐Ÿ˜†

      2. Marc says:

        Mission accomplished!

  6. Gary Lee says:

    Another good use of redirects is increase the CTR of the ad. I know it sounds minimal, but I’ve tracked over a 0.50% increase in CTR when I changed from a regular affiliate link to a redirect link.

    1. Kenny says:

      CTR has gone up but what about # of conversions? Curious to know if that increases as well.

    2. That would be interesting to note as well. How much better did the conversion rate counts? What is most important in the end are the people who end up signing up under you.

  7. Glen says:

    I have been wondering how to increase ctr for affiliate links thanks for the tip.

  8. Ryan says:

    I made a post about this two weeks ago, except I show you how to do it in HTML, JavaScript, Perl, and PHP! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    http://www.ryanjparker.net/shortening-affiliate-links-for-prettier-linking/

    You obviously have way more reach than I do John. :mrgreen:

    1. Don’t worry Ryan. I still look to you as the trailblazer!

  9. Good post and thanks for the sample code! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

  10. Jon says:

    Hey John, do you know when the next Pagerank update is?

    1. It’ll probably happen in 1-2 months… they usually update every quarter or so.

      1. jez says:

        I thought the last one started 3 months ago, that doesnt seem to have completely rolled out over all data centres yet tho, my pr is still out on 3 of them

        1. Yeah, the most recent PR update was a little shaky… Took awhile to settle – I think it’s pretty stable right now.

    2. Ryan says:

      PageRank is constantly being updated. The toolbar is nothing more than a snapshot in history… so it really doesn’t matter. ๐Ÿ˜ˆ

    3. I have had heard that the next one will be sometime in April though.

  11. Yumcha says:

    I used to make sure that my links were cloaked but recently relaxed my stance. After reading this however, I shall go back to practicing it.

    Thank you for another great article!

  12. Yeah, it’s a nice trick – I’ve been doing this for a long time. I even wrote an article about cloaking links a few years ago.

    It has saved me a lot of time when affiliate programs decide to change their affiliate system and give use new links. Then I only need to update 1 file ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Erik says:

    Great idea! Definitely using this for my affiliate links. Thanks John!

  14. Only thing I would add is that isn’t there some new legislation in place that states you have to disclose that you are affiliate marketing? Although, I think that just talking about it on your blog counts. I have a little note on my about page… if anyone else knows more about this, please chime in!

    1. jez says:

      Doesnt matter, this is aimed at stopping google detecting it, not your readers, who you can still inform

      1. Ah – good point. ๐Ÿ˜€

      2. I agree with that. Google only checks for the links. I do not believe they have all the time in the world to manually go to each and everyone’s site to do a check.

  15. ilker says:

    That is a cheeky move John.. ๐Ÿ˜ˆ

    OFF TOPIC: How come you don’t comment on any other blog apart from your own?

    1. Because… People will come to him, even if he doesn’t.

      1. ilker says:

        What do you mean? ๐Ÿ˜

  16. Jimi says:

    I like redirects. Click my name to send Alexa a buzz for me ๐Ÿ˜†

    I am also going to create me some affiliate marketing pages myself. I like the idea and really never got around to it. Considering that I am full of crap a disclosure policy will flow nicely from my fingers as it has on all my other sites.

  17. Doug Karr says:

    Thanks for the tip, John! I’ve added a link to my menubar now so that if the person isn’t logged in (aka: Not me), they get an Advertise link with this method. Pretty cool!

  18. Ralph Dagza says:

    I use shorty for that its an easy to use, self hosted redirection tool or URL shortening

    get-shorty.com

    1. Would that be more cumbersome to keep track of, since it is from an outside source? Say you have to edit, add affiliate links for example.

  19. Renรฉe says:

    This approach of redirecting is good if only you have a handful of aff links.

    For simplitiy sake and easy tracking, use .htaccess to redirect aff link. If you are lucky, google might miss one or two and index them. By some luck, you might get comm from visitors clicking directly to the merchant site (without going to your site) and buy a whole bunch of stuff. $$$

    This doens’t occur often, but it happens. Just name your redirect link wisely.

  20. Well, this is indeed useful, and seriously tactful method to ‘counter’ Google isn’t it? I guess most people do not know about this since most of them clearly place the plain affiliate links on their webpages.

  21. Great post but secondary pages would work pretty well too.

  22. Britt Malka says:

    Hi John

    You’re both evil AND black hat SEO’ing ๐Ÿ˜ˆ

    The latter I know from Eric Giguรจre who wrote a book about cloaking links, and got his articles turned down from EZineArticles, because they thought it was black hat SEO:

    Read his blog post here: http://www.memwg.com/blog/adsense/Newsflash-Eric-Giguere-Practices-Black-Hat-SEO-by-Promoting-Link-Cloaking.html

    Well, in my opinion it’s more clever than evil ๐Ÿ˜‰

  23. Chris says:

    Brilliant John, I think I’ll do this with my site when I get home!

  24. Mike Panic says:

    This would explain why my former PR3 “deals” blog site went to a PR0 last time it was updated, even though my traffic and RSS subscriptions have grown leaps and bounds. The problem is, I don’t have the time to create a new page for every single product I list, as I directly link to products, 15-40 of them per day, all different, every day. Ideas?

  25. derrich says:

    Nice…and thanks for supplying the code.

  26. IndoDX says:

    I can say that this trick really usable and the one of easy way.. I will use it too

    Thanks

  27. More great information.

  28. Nathan Drach says:

    Has anyone done this dynamically with server side scripts, or is the javascript method preferred?

  29. Mubin says:

    Hey John any chance of letting us know a site where we can get updated on a list of brand new products to market?

    I mean I use azoogle and all but its not that great and doesnt have alot of ACTUAL products.

    1. Michael Kwan says:

      Ha! You stole John’s identity.

  30. Mubin says:

    For some reason I entered your blog name in my url field and up comes your snapshoT! That is weird!

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