Affiliate marketing can provide a welcome income boost to your business through a few well-placed links. However, search engines often crack down on affiliate sites that contain too many paid links and penalize them where it hurts – their search engine ranking.
Even so, there are ethical ways around this. They enable you to still promote affiliate products without being read your virtual rights – it all centers around the concept of “link juice” and how it's apportioned.
In this post, we’ll discuss how search engines track affiliate links and why this can be bad news for your business. We’ll then provide you with two simple solutions based on the nofollow attribute – a manual method, and the Pretty Links way – before explaining how you can use each to protect your site from penalties.
Let’s get started!
Why Search Engine Bots Track Your Affiliate Links (and What nofollow Means)
Affiliate links are no doubt an important part of your business. However, search engines often don't take kindly to a plethora of affiliate (i.e. paid) links on your website. However, before you give up affiliate marketing altogether, it's not as cut and dried as it first appears.
When you add a link to your WordPress site, it's automatically classed as dofollow. This means the linked site will receive some of your site's link juice.
However, when you have too many links pointing to affiliate sites, you make it appear as if they are directly paying you for an search engine optimization (SEO) boost. This is what leads to penalties, including the loss of your hard-earned search engine ranking.
You can avoid this with the nofollow attribute. By adding this to your affiliate links, they won't be included when search engine bots crawl your site. Essentially, the attribute does what it says on the tin – it tells the bot not to follow the link or pass on any of your site's link juice.
There are two ways to go about ensuring affiliate links aren’t tracked by search engine bots. The first is a manual process within the WordPress editor, and the second involves link cloaking with Pretty Links. Let's take a look at each.
How to Manually nofollow Your Affiliate Links
Now we've covered the importance of nofollow, let's show you how to add this attribute to your own links.
You'll need to be within the WordPress editor for this, and initially it doesn't matter whether you're using either the visual or text editors – whichever one is more comfortable for you. However, once you've added a link, you’ll need to be within the text editor:
Here, you'll see the underlying HTML code of your post or page, and you'll need to scour your content to find the link in question:
To manually nofollow the link, we'll need to add some code. First, place your cursor between the closing double quote and angled bracket. Next, add a single space, then type rel=”nofollow”:
Once you save your changes, that's it! This option, while effective at preventing search engine penalties, can be tedious if you have a lot of links. Fortunately, there’s a much quicker way to get the same results.
How to Cloak and nofollow Your Affiliate Links Using Pretty Links
While Pretty Links is certainly the leader in link shortening, it offers a variety of other features such as the ability to cloak your links and set nofollow automatically. What's more, the process is very straightforward.
However, let's firstly discuss link cloaking. This is a process that enables you to change the look of a target URL. So, instead of a lengthy and unappealing affiliate link that could be mistaken as something not worth clicking, you can instead cloak it with a pretty URL such as http://www.yoursite.com/productname.
In addition, the cloaked link will still redirect to the target URL, will look cleaner, and can also be branded to include your website's address.
After installing and activating the plugin, you’ll find a new option on the left side of your WordPress dashboard. To add a new link, navigate to Pretty Links > Add New Link:
You'll be brought to the Add Link screen. The first thing you'll want to do is choose Cloaked from the Redirection drop-down list:
Next, enter the target URL (including www). This will be your original affiliate link. Next, add the “slug” you'd like to use for your cloaked link to the Pretty Links field, then add a title and notes for your own reference if you wish:
To make this link a nofollow, expand the Advanced Options section and tick the No Follow checkbox:
You can also add new links from within posts and pages. To do so from within the WordPress editor, select the star icon from the visual editor's toolbar:
You'll be greeted by a pop-up menu, which enables you to enter your link information as you did from the Add Link screen. You can also select the redirect type, and nofollow from within this pop-up, as well as enable link tracking:
It's a handy, code-free way to nofollow, cloak, and track your affiliate links, all from your WordPress visual editor.
If you’re an affiliate marketer worried about search engine penalties, you have nothing to fear. With the use of nofollow and Pretty Links’s cloaking feature, you can be sure to keep the search engine police away from your virtual door, and retain your hard-earned ranking.
In this post, we've discussed the negative impact that uncloaked affiliate links can have on your marketing website. However, there are two things you can do to avoid search engine penalties. To recap, you can:
- Use the manual nofollow attribute on your affiliate links.
- Use Pretty Links to cloak and nofollow your affiliate links.
Do you have any questions about the nofollow attribute, or how Pretty Links can help? Let us know in the comments section below!