Should Unlabeled Affiliate Links Be Banned From Google, Mahalo, etc?

On the heels of Jason Calacanis’ keynote at the Affiliate Summit, he’s asking a very important question. Get in the conversation over on his blog or feel free to use the comments here.

Should we ban unlabled affiliate links from Mahalo?: “It seems the members of our editorial team are declining to list pages in Mahalo that have hidden affiliate links.

Should Mahalo ban all sites that have hidden/undisclosed affiliate links?
Should Mahalo allow great sites that have hidden/undisclosed affiliate links?
Google has banned paid links, do you think they should follow Mahalo and ban/lower the ranking of pages with undisclosed affiliate links?”

About Sam Harrelson

Former ReveNews and CostPerNews Publisher, Former Affiliate Marketer, Current Middle School Science Teacher, Current Publisher of AffiliateHack

Twitter: sbharrelson22
  • Jonathan (Trust)

    Him even asking that, just goes to one of the reasons it will ultimately fail. He doesn't get search.

    If someone types in shopping terms, that would naturally bring up affiliate sites/coupon sites. You're not going to include them because the affiliate links aren't labeled? So if I type in online coupons, you're going to return 0 results? They don't have to be labeled. In fact, I remember awhile back some bloggers going a little overboard with that, thinking this was going to be some big deal and some of them acting unprofessionally to those pointing that out. Haven't heard a peep from one network or one merchant ever about it, never will.

    So let it be banned from Mahalo, not a big deal. Real search engines, that will never happen with. The goal of a search engine is to deliver the most relevant results for any given search, period.

  • Sam Harrelson

    Or as you pointed out, Jonathan:

  • Kellie

    Short answer no. Long answer is well longer. :) Addressing problems in a meaningful way usually do require the longer answer. At least solutions which are practical and don't end up being self-defeating.

    But if he does ban them flat out from Mahalo then he should ban all affiliate sites showing in his AdSense as well. After all, he's still sending his users off to a problematic site or a site they feel is problematic. It should be done with all their outbound links, including those they are monetizing.

    I've never liked sweeping broad generalizations. In this case "all" undisclosed/hidden affiliate links.

    Jason's message of Internet pollution (which has validity) is getting lost in his extremes.

  • Jonathan (Trust)

    With his thinking, maybe Mahalo should ban the site he's on the board of? Since I don't see those affiliate links labeled. I see Buy at: list of links and some are unlabeled affiliate links. Also might want to read over the Adsense terms.

  • Jonathan (Trust)

    I see that, but he’s asking if they should ban them/remove them from Mahalo. If he wants to have a search engine that’s not relevant, remove them.

  • Wayne Porter

    What if say, I have a private label turn-key site…do you ban this?

    Let us say- the terrain is not flat- it is 3D- where do you disclose?

    Has anyone studied the changes of disclosure against non-disclosure?

    Do most have any clue what an affiliate link is?

  • Wayne Porter

    Sam- Remember our talks on Sokal? (and my jokes on Liber 777)

    I think labels do matter…and perhaps labeling is ok, but without context, the label may not be accurate…I do understand what you are saying now. It is all relative.


  • Pat Grady

    G hasn't even really banned paid links or every site in the paid Yahoo Directory would have disappeared from the serps.

    Regarding labeling, G's take is more… don't be deceptive with your visitors. Far different than requiring complete disclosure of all of the details behind the scenes concerning why you've built / provided what you have.

    Does G itself explain repeatedly and loudly and locally to consumers, on each upload or visit to YouTube, that they've wanted people to upload their videos so they can build an audience and also use that same media for monetization at a future date?

    With each search, does G explain (local to that search with a label) that their cookie is recording information used for behavioral targeting?

    Labeling ideas runeth amuck.

  • Jimmy Daniels

    I laugh everytime I read this line,

    "Google has banned paid links, do you think they should follow Mahalo and ban/lower the ranking of pages with undisclosed affiliate links?"

    Ya, Google will follow Mahalo, lol.

    Here's my opinion, who cares?

    We are really giving a sub standard "directory" to much coverage.

  • Wayne Porter

    Jason has completed his task…as was expected.

  • Wayne Porter

    “Google has banned paid links, do you think they should follow Mahalo and ban/lower the ranking of pages with undisclosed affiliate links?”

    Mahalo should do something to be unique. They are not Google. Start with User Experience. White list those that are good- block the rest. Add community and a new way of feedback- it has to be earth shattering new.

    Not tools to fill up “social media” sites- given them tools too pollute? Here fill up RSS aggregators all at once…nice User Experience…


    Affiliates (or black hats)- some of you have behaved like Jason. Relative… don’t worry about him…karmic debt. What can you do?

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  • Phil Barnhart

    Excluding twitter for the moment, why not use an existing paradigm to deal with affiliate links – semantically as microformats?. Something as simple as rel="affiliate" might be sufficient. A more complex microformat might identify the advertiser or network (a la rel="license" microformat”).

    This way, the small percentage of people who may be concerned can download the inevitable plugin if needed, management and links to privacy and disclosure pages automated, etc. Of course, the real drivers of this may need to the actual affiliate programs – if CJ for example put this in their auto code generation tool.

    As for Twitter, the major URL shorteners like BudURL could simply set up a complementary domain for affiliate/sponsored links and maintain the disclosure on their site via a link preview function. Again, it would help if Twitter then autotagged the URL.

    A modest proposal, at least. And requires no one else’s permission to start!

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