Affiliate Links Equal Paid Links. Yes or No.

It seems that my rant from about one month ago remained pretty much unnoticed, except for some people of the SEO community. But they were not the intended audience for it. Other affiliate marketers were and I did not hear anything from them. Yes, from you.

Flashback: Google engineer Matt Cutts opened last month at his blog a big can of worms. A can that is not only to be served to the search engine optimization community, but a dish that seems to be served to affiliate marketers as well.

Keyword “Paid Links”. While link buying and selling for the obvious purpose of benefiting from them in the organic search results are clearly matching the definition of paid links are other links not so easy to be classified as “paid” or “organic”/”natural given” as the opposite to “paid”.

I wrote last week a four part series to the general issues of the discussion, background information, suggestions for solutions and examples of alternative directions to solve the same problem. It’s long and four parts as I already said, but IMO opinion worth your time reading it.

To my question, which I asked repeatedly and directly, if Matt/Google considers affiliate links to be “paid links” and thus wants to force affiliates to add the NOFOLLOW attribute to all affiliate links to avoid possible penalties or search engine bans, did I not get any answer to this date.

He got the question, I am certain of that and I am also sure that he understood it too. He avoids the answer to that question on purpose and I do not consider this to be a good sign.

Would you have a problem with the requirement to flag all your affiliate links with the NOFOLLOW attribute or would you have no problem with this at all?

I expressed my opinion about this multiple times over the past 5-6 months already and will not repeat it here again, because this is not what I intend with this post. I would like to know what others in the affiliate marketing industry (and not search marketing industry) think about the whole thing.

Please feel free to comment below. Thanks.
Carsten

About Carsten Cumbrowski

Internet Marketer, Entrepreneur and Blogger. To learn more about me and what I am doing, visit my website and check out the “about” section.

Twitter: ccumbrowski
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Internet Marketer, Entrepreneur and Blogger. To learn more about me and what I am doing, visit my website and check out the "about" section.

16 Responses to Affiliate Links Equal Paid Links. Yes or No.

  1. Jonathan (Trust) says:

    You already know my answer :)

    No. Not what they were talking about. You don’t need to put nofollow on your affiliate links. I’ve never heard that anywhere except from a couple of SEO bloggers that didn’t know what they were talking about. Google and the other SE’s know about affiliate sites. It’s one of those misconceptions that gets passed along that your site will get penalized if it has affiliate links. Crap sites get penalized whether they have affiliate links or not. It just so happens a lot of those crap sites are affiliate sites so people made the wrong connection.

    So no, you don’t need nofollow. And no, they’re not the paid links Google was talking about.

  2. Last year or in January when the discussion was a lot softer did Matt Cutts suggest to use nofollow on affiliate links, but I can’t find that damn comment. May be it was at Graywolf’s blog, because that discussion was long and pretty good. All comments were wiped out by an accident though. It would explain why I can’t find it anymore.

    But that does not matter. The more recent posts by Matt Cutts raised the stakes and we are talking about penalties for sites that do not add nofollow to spider readable links and considered “paid” by Google. Now it does matter a lot what Google considers to be a paid link and what not. Google did not do much in this regard yet, but the posts were an advanced warning of things to come.

    It will be a bit late to discuss the issue if you see one day a change in their webmaster guidelines and a lot of affiliate sites getting hit over night for not doing something wrong IMO.

    What worries me is the avoidance of an answer for my straight forward question that has a simple yes or no answer.

    Kris Jones from Pepperjam for example fights such a battle in Google’s paid search arena, because affiliates got hit already while other advertisers that do pretty much the same did not.

  3. Jonathan (Trust) says:

    Carsten, this is like your 3rd or 4th blog on the exact same subject.

    “Last year or in January when the discussion was a lot softer did Matt Cutts suggest to use nofollow on affiliate links, but I can’t find that damn comment.”

    I remember you said that before but if it existed I’m sure if would have been found by now. You won’t find Matt Cutts suggesting to use nofollow on affiliate links because he never said that. What does exist was Matt Cutts blog on the subject and it was clear what he was talking about.

    “May be it was at Graywolf’s blog, because that discussion was long and pretty good”

    That’s probably where it was and that’s what I was talking about when I said an SEO blogger who didn’t know what they were talking about.

    “The more recent posts by Matt Cutts raised the stakes and we are talking about penalties for sites that do not add nofollow to spider readable links and considered “paid” by Google.”

    You know you could have someone just starting out and read that and they’re going to waste their time throwing nofollow on all their affiliate links. You and a couple of SEO bloggers are the only ones who have ever brought this up. You’re not getting much input from other people on this blog or the other ones you’ve had because they probably feel the same way I do in that it’s just all ridiculous no matter how many blogs you start on the subject.

    You don’t have to put nofollow on your affiliate links.

    Matt Cutts has never suggested that.

    He was talking about putting nofollow on paid links. Paid links usually being text links that people buy and sell for PR/SERP benefits. I’ve linked to that blog where he said exactly that the other times you’ve brought this up.

  4. “Carsten, this is like your 3rd or 4th blog on the exact same subject.”

    Well, the subject matter is still about an unresolved problem with different new approaches to it and new developments.

    The subject is a very big and important one as well and actually of fundamental importance for Google. It is a problem that hurts Google at its vulnerable heart. It’s Achilles heel. The dependency on links for its ranking algorithm.

    “You won’t find Matt Cutts suggesting to use nofollow on affiliate links because he never said that.”

    I can’t prove it and said that before as you already accurately said. You have to take my word for it or don’t, but he made other statements, which I cited in my 4 part series posts that reinforce the notion that he considers affiliate links paid links.

    “that’s what I was talking about when I said an SEO blogger who didn’t know what they were talking about.”

    I would not say that Michael Gray does not know what he is talking about, but you are free to think about him what you want.

    “You don’t have to put nofollow on your affiliate links.”

    I hope so, because it would be wrong. Actually you don’t have to do that no matter what, if you don’t care about traffic from Google.

    “Matt Cutts has never suggested that.”

    He did, believe me or not. The correct statement would be that you do not believe me that I saw Matt Cutts suggesting to add nofollow to affiliate links much earlier in the discussion. That is something completely different and you are free have this opinion.

  5. Jonathan (Trust) says:

    “Well, the subject matter is still about an unresolved problem with different new approaches to it and new developments.”

    It’s not an unresolved one, it’s an imaginary one. The root of which a couple of bloggers read Matt Cutts blog wrong and it has been pointed out a few times already.

    “Matt Cutts has never suggested that.”

    He did, believe me or not.”

    Carsten, if he did, you or somebody else would have linked to it by now. You can’t because it doesn’t exist.

    “I would not say that Michael Gray does not know what he is talking about, but you are free to think about him what you want.”

    On the subject at hand, no he doesn’t. Ask him for a link to Google saying that. He won’t have it either.

    “You don’t have to put nofollow on your affiliate links.”

    I hope so, because it would be wrong. Actually you don’t have to do that no matter what, if you don’t care about traffic from Google.”

    And there it is, fear posting. You’ll still get traffic from Google and you don’t have to put the nofollow on. I don’t know any affiliate doing that. Google knows affiliate sites and affiliate links. They’re pretty obvious. And they don’t have a problem with it, they’re getting into CPA themselves. How about I say, Google is going to penalize all sites with affiliate links on the next update, Matt said so. I don’t need to prove it, I can just say he did. That’s what you’re doing with all these blogs.

    You can’t provide a link to Matt saying that because he never did and it doesn’t exist.

  6. Jonathan,
    I wish you were right and I would be wrong. I would have no problem with that, because this is not about ego and the need to be right no matter what. Some of your statements are simply wrong.

    Your accusations that I am lying should hurt me, but they do not, because this discussion is public and others can make up their own mind.

    I can’t proof to you that Matt made the comment. You can’t proof that Google does not include affiliate links when they talk about paid links and Google does not answer the direct question if they do or if they don’t.

    It seems to me that they leave themselves this backdoor open and decide later or on a case by case basis what they do. I am sure that they noticed the development of tracking technology that transfers ranking.

    Older technologies like the one used by CJ and Linkshare for example does not transfer rank as far as I know. Those links are as irrelevant to Google as Javascript links or links in flash animations, which they can not read and ignore.

    I would not make a problem out of it, if Matt for example would answer this question, but he avoids it and does not answer it at all, not at his blog and also not elsewhere.

    Don’t you think that if it is not a problem and nothing to worry about, that he would simply state something like “I am not talking about typical affiliate links here, but links that are traded publicly or on the black market for the sole intend to manipulate ranking in the SERPS”.

    He does not. What does that tell you?

  7. Jonathan (Trust) says:

    “Your accusations that I am lying should hurt me”

    What I’m saying is you misinterpreted what you read or are remembering it wrong. Like I said, if he said that, you would have a link. Also, if he said that, it would have been a big story and people would be talking about it in forums, blogs etc. They’re not.

    “Don’t you think that if it is not a problem and nothing to worry about, that he would simply state something like “I am not talking about typical affiliate links here, but links that are traded publicly or on the black market for the sole intend to manipulate ranking in the SERPS”.

    I don’t think he needs too, it was pretty obvious to what they were talking about. He clearly laid out he was talking about links bought and sold for PR/SERP purposes. Here it is again and it’s from Sep. 2005

    http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/text-links-and-pagerank/

    I’m quoting him using nofollow:

    “What if a site wants to buy links purely for visitor click traffic, to build buzz, or to support another site? In that situation, I would use the rel=”nofollow” attribute. The nofollow tag allows a site to add a link that abstains from being an editorial vote. Using nofollow is a safe way to buy links, because it’s a machine-readable way to specify that a link doesn’t have to be counted as a vote by a search engine.”

    “get PageRank via buying links.”

    That’s clear as day.

    I know you want a direct answer from him but if you haven’t gotten it in over a year and half even when you asked it on his blog, I don’t think it’s going to happen. And it’s nothing to worry about. You’re the only one I know who is worrying about it, I don’t know one other affiliate.

    And it’s not like it’s hard to tell which links are affiliate links are which aren’t. They know all about affiliate marketing and affiliate links.

  8. Jonathan (Trust) says:

    Also in this thread (and you can delete this comment if you want afterwards:)

    Click Here to Learn about Affiliate Marketing

    I had a post that is not showing up from today that got stuck again. Hopefully somebody goes ahead and upgrades this board or fixes the problem because it is annoying lots of people. I know it’s annoying you from reading the other post you made. Thanks.

  9. Jonathan, there is no comment stuck. Did you got the error that said that there is a limit how quickly you can make comments and that you have to wait? Those comments are not saved. But I explained that the use of the back button will not erase the comment and that you can recover it. I also got a good idea what the problem is.

    To your other comment.

    I know Matts posts from September 2005 and before, starting with the contribution to the post at the official google blog that introduced nofollow as the cure for blog spam, December 2005, end of 2006, January 2007 and April 2007.

    Did you noticed some changes in is statements over the time? Also, did I not say that he said something in a post at his blog about it, but in a blog comment and that was either in December 2006 or January 2007.

    Btw. Did you read the 4 part series at SEJ? I referenced to a lot of things starting with the 2003 “Florida Update”.

  10. “And it’s not like it’s hard to tell which links are affiliate links are which aren’t. They know all about affiliate marketing and affiliate links.”

    FYI. Google does not know as much as they want you to believe. I just read a funnt post by Jeremy from Yahoo!. You might find it interesting.

    I also referenced a case in my post series where Google would fair to detect the affiliate link. It was a at another blog. You will find it, if you want to know about a real world example.

    In that example am I an affiliate and the other blogger is not, but our links are identical. I get a commission check and the other blogger does not. Both links were given for the same reason, but I signed up for the affiliate program when I saw it, the other blogger did not

  11. Jonathan (Trust) says:

    “Jonathan, there is no comment stuck. Did you got the error that said that there is a limit how quickly you can make comments and that you have to wait?”

    It was in the other thread about affilpedia. I made a post about 5 hours ago and it said something about being in moderation.

  12. Jonathan (Trust) says:

    Got it again, I just tried reposting:

    Thank you for commenting.

    Your comment has been received and held for approval by the blog owner.

    Return to the original entry

    Note by Carsten: It’s published at the other post.

  13. two comments were stuck from within the last 15 minutes, but nothing from around 5 hours ago. There was one last night which I already published then.

  14. Jonathan,

    I believe you will find this post interesting as well. Some new developments since we started our discussion.

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