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Should Websites Hide Affiliate Links

We again look to John Mueller to learn what Google says about whether sites can or should hide affiliate links.

In a recent #AskGooglebot episode, a user asked how sites should handle affiliate links and if it’s ok to hide them. Mueller answers the question and gives helpful insight for site builders utilizing affiliate linking on their pages.

What is an Affiliate Link?

Mueller prefaces his response with an explanation of affiliate links and how they work. First, he tells us that affiliate links are simply links to other businesses. The person placing the link gets paid when users use that link to visit the business site to buy a product or service.

Site owners use affiliate links to monetize their sites, and affiliate marketing takes affiliate linking to a new level. It’s a low- or no-cost venture that brings in significant income for many marketers.

Are Affiliate Links OK?

In the words of John Mueller, “Affiliate links are fine.” They’re an acceptable –– and effective –– means to monetize your site.

As Mueller continues his answer, he reminds site owners of two important aspects to keep in mind when building pages with hidden affiliate links.

Unique Content and Value

John Mueller is the face of Google when it comes to SEO strategy and optimization. As he’s discussing the question of affiliate links, he brings viewers back to SEO basics.

For affiliate links to benefit your pages, your site should provide unique content that serves your users. For example, create original content and product descriptions that provide value to your site visitors. After all, that’s precisely what earns top rankings with Google.

Site visitors come to you because you provide helpful solutions. When you’re promoting a product or service, users trust your backing of that company’s goods. Writing original link descriptions increases your authority, impresses Google’s crawlers, and shows site visitors that you have real knowledge about the product you’re endorsing.

Declare Affiliate Links

In addition to producing unique content with your affiliate links, Mueller tells us that affiliate links should be declared for both users and search engines and gives specific instructions on how to do this.

For users, consult local regulations to determine how to declare your affiliate links. Depending on your jurisdiction, different laws will govern your actions regarding link disclosure.

For search engines, you should use the rel=”nofollow” or rel=”sponsored” link attributes to express that the link is paid. There’s no reason to hide affiliate links for search engines.

Mueller continues: There’s no need to use any weird, automatic JavaScript, unclick handling, or cloaking to hide these. Just link and declare them so that the links can be treated appropriately. If you use JavaScript to add affiliate links, remember to add the appropriate attributes there too.

Affiliate Links and Product Reviews

Many site owners use affiliate links when giving product reviews. If this is the case for your site, Mueller suggests reviewing Google’s search documentation to determine if any kind of structured data might be appropriate to implement on your pages. Additionally, you’ll want to craft reviews that meet Google’s new update standards.

In April 2022, Google launched an update targeting “review websites.” The update promotes sites that provide in-depth, helpful product reviews. Google doesn’t penalize sites with thin content or those with pages of summarized content reviews. But because the update rewards sites that provide more value to users, lower-quality sites might feel like that promotion is a penalty when they lose ranking spots.

As with every aspect of SEO, Google rewards sites that provide value to its users. So, if you’re going to include affiliate links on your site, create reviews that provide insightful analysis and original research. Then, take it one step further and acquire reviews from experts who know the product well and can provide an authoritative opinion on the items you’re linking.

Affiliate links can benefit your existing SEO efforts, but only if you surround those links with original and useful content that serves Google’s users.

Conclusion

Affiliate linking is excellent for your site, and if when you link strategically and with original content, it can significantly benefit your SEO efforts.