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Google Answers: Safe to Redirect Affiliate Links?

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Google Answers: Safe to Redirect Affiliate Links?
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In a Google Webmaster Hangout, Google’s John Mueller answered if redirecting affiliate links was a bad practice. He answered the question then offered what he felt was a better way to deal with affiliate links.

Affiliate Links and Advertising

Affiliate links are basically performance based advertising. A publisher is paid when a user clicks an affiliate link and buys a product.

 

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller answering if it's okay to redirect affiliate linksScreenshot of Google’s John Mueller answering the question of whether it is safe to redirect affiliate links.

Should You Redirect Affiliate Links?

There are many reasons why people redirect links.

One of the oldest SEO myths is that Google hates affiliate sites and will not rank a site if it hosts affiliate links. The response was to hide affiliate links by redirecting them through a folder that is blocked to Google. This practice is called cloaking links.

Ranking issues is not a reason to redirect affiliate links.

Another reason to redirect affiliate links is that it helps in managing those links. That’s a good reason to redirect links.

Is 302 Redirecting Links a Bad Practice?

There are many reasons to redirect an affiliate link. Here’s the question:

“Is using 302 affiliate links a bad practice? So you basically have /vitamins and it redirects to vitamin shop with your affiliate URL, is that a problem or not?”

This is what John Mueller offered:

“From our point of view that’s perfectly fine, there’s nothing that we would consider bad there.

From my point of view because there’s really nothing there that provides any additional value for your website in the sense that it looks better by having redirects to your affiliate pages or not.

Personally I would recommend using less complexity and not setting up these kinds of redirects and just linking to that site directly. I just think you save yourself the effort of trying to maintain all of these things individually.”

Is it Safe to Redirect Affiliate Links?

Contrary to John Mueller’s personal opinion there are many good reasons to redirect an affiliate link.

There are times when an affiliate link is long and full of many parameters. Using a redirect is one way to clean that up and make sure that it works.

Redirects are also used to track clicks.

Another reason to use a redirect is to hide your affiliate links from parasites. Affiliate parasites are malware hidden in browsers that can rewrite your affiliate link so that it links to the affiliate site with someone else’s affiliate code, creating a cookie that credits another site. This is a way to steal income from publishers.

Yes, it is safe to redirect affiliate links. Affiliate marketing legend Rae Dolan wrote an article that lists seven reasons why to redirect affiliate links.

Here are the seven reasons to cloak affiliate links:

  1. “Running them through my redirects means I have a click count to match up to the one the merchant is reporting.
  2. Affiliate links are usually ugly and impossible to remember without doing a copy/paste. Redirects allow you to create short, memorable URLS for them and allow you to access commonly used affiliate links from memory.
  3. If you’re in an industry where you market to other affiliates, it can help prevent folks from switching out your affiliate ID with theirs.
  4. If the merchant decides to change networks or linking methods, you can edit a single redirect instead of needing to edit every instance in which you linked to them throughout your entire site.
  5. If you decide to change which merchant you’re using to promote a product, you can edit one redirect instead of needing to edit every instance in which you linked to them throughout your entire site.
  6. If a handful of the merchants I mention on a regular basis don’t have affiliate programs, I’ll often still cloak the link to their main website. This way, if they ever do launch an affiliate program, I can affiliate all my previous links to them by updating the one cloaked link.
  7. If you’re running an affiliate datafeed site, anything you can do to make your site more technically unique than the other 4000 affiliates using the same datafeed is a bonus in regards to affiliate datafeed SEO.”

Google Confirms it’s Okay to Redirect Affiliate Links

Yes, according to Google, it is safe to redirect affiliate links. There are at least seven reasons why you should consider redirecting affiliate links. It may be useful to test if redirecting affiliate links results in more clicks and higher earnings. Most importantly, Google will not penalize a site for redirecting their affiliate links.

Watch the Webmaster Hangout here.

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Roger Montti

Roger Montti is a search marketer with nearly 20 years experience. I offer site audits and link building strategies. See ... [Read full bio]

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