Do Affiliate Links Help or Hurt With SEO? Here’s The Answer

If you do blogging and affiliate marketing together, you’re going to have inevitably put those affiliate links in your posts. But if SEO part of your site (and it is if you’re blogging), there has been speculation that if you have too many affiliate links, that it can hurt your rankings and if it’s true, how then are you supposed to make money?

Do Affiliate Links Help or Hurt With SEO

Here is the answer on whether or not affiliate links hurt (or help) your SEO:

Affiliate links generally do not negatively impact your SEO directly. You can literally have as many affiliate links as you want on your page.

However, the problem can come when you incorrectly place your affiliate links throughout your blog or site in a way that looks like spam or lowers the reading experience your users have and if that occurs, then Google can see your site as being low quality and this can affect your SEO.

So the solution is to intelligently know where and when to place affiliate links on your site to make sure that you:

  1. Don’t ruin your reader’s experience.
  2. Keep your content high quality.
  3. And make sure Google sees this so they don’t negatively de-rank you.

What my experience in SEO has taught me regarding affiliate links:

I’m going to get into a few more details about the above stuff I said, because there more circumstances to consider regarding this subject:

1) Websites that are new and getting built with SEO should avoid having them initially.

I help a lot of people create their very first websites and the training I always refer them to the Wealthy Affiliate program. However, nowhere in the beginning lessons of that program does it ever say to start spamming affiliate links (aka promotions) all over your site (and there’s a reason they don’t) and out of all the people who build them, I would say about 30-40% of them do it anyway.

Here’s what happens:

People who don’t understand SEO, what high quality content is, what it means to get website authority, and so on set up a few pages, add a few hundred words on each at best and then for the remainder of the time, go around, set up beautiful banner ads, promotions in every single paragraph and basically put more effort into advertising products on their site than they do writing actual content.

Then either they don’t do anything else, or they continue to build content, but just can’t seem to see their rankings climb. And also because they don’t see their rankings climb and they have no traffic, when they apply to affiliate programs, their affiliate applications get disapproved because of that.

What in the world is going on?

Well that’s where we get to the main points of #1, which is:

  • It takes about 6 months for sites to do well with SEO.
  • And adding affiliate links too early, doesn’t penalize the site, but it does slow it down.

I find that if you add too many affiliate links, too early, you create far too many external doors to other websites and Google may view your page as:

2) A bridge page. And that type of page typically does not rank well.

What is a bridge page?

Well remember what I said about affiliate linking so much throughout your site that makes it look like spam and ruins your reader’s experience? Well that’s one way of looking at it.

Typically a bridge page is a term that is used regarding websites that do pay per click. In those cases, when a website tries to put up an add and is littered with too many promotions, Google will view it as a low quality site and often not approve your ad to be shown.

Does it happen in SEO as well? In my experience, possibly! Typically there is always a long period in what I like to call a website’s “authority growth” where over a period of several months, your website is stuck in a Google dance where it just can’t seem to reach 1st page rankings and it is in my experience also the most frustrating period a website owner will go through in the SEO life cycle.

But should the website owner continuously add content to their page, this period will not last long and the website owner will witness a steady growth into what eventually will turn into a boom in traffic. This is the period where your site matures enough that Google now trusts it more to rank it higher, meaning 1st page Google rankings!

But this process can be slowed down if the person during the trust period begins to set up tons of affiliate links where each time Google visits it, it’ll see this and view it as a lower quality site that is more so aiming to “bridge” people to another source that aims to sell vs another site that aims to inform.

Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that you should NOT add any promotions until your website hits that boom period. If you do intend to link somewhere, it HELPS a lot if they go to authority sites that are not selling anything and/or through internal links within your site. In other words, if you’re going to send people somewhere, send them to an informative page, not a sales page:

how affiliate linking with seo works

So based on that image above, only add them if:

You are just starting a niche site and stumble across a product that is in a popular trend period where it’s selling like crazy, where by following the general rule of not adding any promotions early will hinder any profits you can make. 

For example:

Let’s say a new popular book comes out that deals with a genre you are covering on your site. It is selling like crazy! But your site is new and therefore shouldn’t risk putting any affiliate offers to sell it because you’re worried it won’t get to the authority period as quick.

In this case, I recommend (only if you have money) to actually put up some affiliate offers to that product (on one page only where you review that product, in this case the popular book…) and send paid traffic there through Bing and Google. It’s worth doing this because if it sells, you’re going to be making good money and it’ll be worth delaying the SEO growth of your site for this, otherwise, you’re missing out on the hot selling period that a product is going through and in that case, it’s way better to hold of on your site’s SEO progression in exchange for many, early profits. 

Note: Either way, if you’re worried about a slower progression in organic rankings, you can make up for it by writing many more other pages which the paid traffic won’t go (it’ll only go to the one page on your site where you’re selling that one hot product).

3) Even when the time is right to add them, add them sparingly. 

How sparingly? This much:

how often should you add affiliate links on your site

Check ANY page on my site where I link to an affiliate offer. Count how many outgoing URLs I have and you’ll see I do it very little. Yet I have done case studies on this and the sales were amazing. 

4. Do not “riddle” every page on your site with affiliate links either.

This basically means that you shouldn’t go around every single page you have and add promotions every chance you get. You can totally have a single banner on your site that is not part of your pages or posts show up as an affiliate link, but just like using them sparingly within the body of your content on actual pages where you promote, use them sparingly throughout your site. 

What I typically do is I often write posts like these where you will not see a single promotion and lately I have been doing that a lot more often. Any link you see on this article is always going to go to another article I have already written before.

But what about affiliate pages!?

Well I have very few of them, but here’s how it should work:


Understand? Basically what you’re doing here is making less of a bridge site and creating a more tight funnel. A good sales funnel is supposed to lead people to a specific place and in this context, we are aiming to lead them to one (or maybe a few pages) where they can buy something. 

But wait a second Vitaliy, if I do too little selling on my site, don’t I hurt my chances of making more money?

Logically, the answer is yes, but it’s not ironically IF you do this:

If you provide quality content on all your other articles which all link back to your affiliate page/s through excellent call to action words, that affiliate page will then get a lot more traffic.

And if on that page itself, you also use great call to action links and/or images to send people to the offer, you’re going to see a great number of conversions.

Trust me, I have tried this on several niche sites and it always works. You are not “breaking” any SEO rules by doing this. You are just sending traffic on your site that comes to whichever article, to the right affiliate page which is then going to the actual offer so they can eventually buy. This is NOT the same as spamming your whole site with promotions!

Banners can improve these numbers too. Images with call to action wording inside them can also do this.

My final thoughts:

There is always room on your site to add affiliate offers, but understand that with the way SEO works today, there is a way to under do it and a way to overdo it.

My opinion is that my approach maintains a high quality element for your site and shows Google you aren’t just there to sell it, but at the same time maintains the selling element in the right places such that you can and will still make good money because it’ll improve your SEO which will improve your traffic numbers and with a proper call to action funnel going to the sales page/s as well as the right ones being on the sales page/s themselves, you will make a lot of money.

26 thoughts on “Do Affiliate Links Help or Hurt With SEO? Here’s The Answer”

  1. Hi, I have a new site that is not currently ranked. I am adding an affiliate banner ad to each of my posts, using a plugin that enables me to put an ad in the sidebar for a product which is relevant to each post. Do you think that by doing this it could hurt my rankings in any way?

    • Hi Chris, putting an affiliate link in the side bar is fine and frankly, so is putting an affiliate ad on each page, but those things are not the same. However, the site is still new and I would ask how often you put up the banner ad on each post. Once is fine, but honestly, my whole take on banner ads is that they cheapen your site in regards to the user experience.

      A well placed affiliate link shouldn’t be forced, but instead should flow together with your content so it doesn’t hurt the reading experience. I honestly never use banner ads given to me by affiliate programs, I either write the text and/or I make a relevant image and insert the link there. I find that this doesn’t ruin the flow of the content.

  2. Thanks for the article. Having a brand new site myself, I’m victim to the anxiety of wanting to post affiliate links too soon. Your reasons here NOT to do that, make complete sense to me. I sort of link it to someone you just met. If you don’t know someone very well, would you necessarily take advice from them? I wouldn’t follow anyone’s advice unless I’ve known them for some time. I kinda think the same applies to websites.

    • Hi Jay, I’m glad this article delayed your action on putting affiliate links up too soon and your analogy makes sense, but we’re talking about Google here, not necessarily the visitor. If Google sees links up too soon, they may devalue your content based on how often it’s trying to link outside of the site.

      There is an argument to be made for the visitor who lands on your page and also sees a lot of affiliate links. The incoming visitor in my experience is really looking for 1 simple read, not one that’s constantly trying to get them to divert elsewhere constantly, it’s just very distracting and ruins their experience.

  3. Useful content for me as a newbie. Thank you very much. I think I will pin this article.

    I have one question. I have a one month site, it almost has no traffic yet. I write reviews and I do not have any affiliate links.

    So the question – is it OK for SEO’s sake to have links to an official site of the reviewed products without affiliate links?

    Or should I delete all active links and leave the official product domain name as a text (not as a link)?

    Thank you!



  4. Thank you so much for that helpful and informative article, this is great advice and I will take it! I have just started to build my own website and was wondering when you should start incorporating affiliate links, I have now decided it is too early for this, and I should rather work on building the content and learn how to measure traffic, thank you again, best wishes. Amanda

  5. Hey Vitaly, I love your article! I’m now working on my very first web site and your tips help me a lot.

    I am trying to create genuine content and what you wrote only gives me the boost and confidence I need to continue writing quality content and wait for traffic before I start advertising on my web site.

    Do you think I should wait for traffic also before I sign up to affiliate programs? Or can I start using affiliate links in the early stages on my website?



    • People I listen to for SEO advice tell me to wait Paulina. Sites from their experience tend to get better boosts without affiliate links and gain authority faster. I cannot personally vouch for this, but unless there’s traffic, why would you want to put affiliate links?

      What I would do is create your content without any affiliate links for now and stick to only interlinking your page/s. Then write up a product review of something you’re promoting and then put up some affiliate links there.

      As long as your site is not going crazy on the linking, you shouldn’t have a problem in my experience.

  6. I love coming back to this site and I have definitely noticed the number of internal links that appear and I’ve more than once clicked to another page worth checking out. It’s a strategy I’ve implemented and it decreased my bounce rate dramatically as people were directed to more pages within my site and not necessarily being lead to an offer. I also save my banners for the sidebar instead but should I try to include them in some posts too?

    • That depends Ryan. I typically also leave one main banner on my side and one at the bottom of all my posts and pages.

      Within my content (article body), I do not include banners because my focus is to provide my visitor with a quality reading experience.

      However, within that same body, I will also use call to action links to send people to relevant promotions and/other other informative posts on my site, the same way you do it through internal links.

      My position is that content for the reader must flow. If a banner is too “shiny” or gets in the way of the reading or flow, it should not be used within the article body, on the side (widget) is fine for most cases.

  7. Hi there Vitaliy,

    Great advice. Most definitely a MUST follow. For me when I am setting up a site I get paranoid and really worry about being seen as a bridge site by the search engines. I tend to stick to the good old 5:1 rule, 5 informative articles per review written. Creates a nice funnel and just under 16% of my pages will have outgoing links

    I have never heard of the 1% rule, not just for affiliate links but for all outbound links. Thanks for that.

  8. Great explanation about something I’ve wondered about.

    I’m working on a kind of self help site at the moment and my articles are weekly and about 1500-1800 words with just one or two links maximum. The links are contained within the text, no banners.

    Another site I’ve just started is about pets and no links at all yet as that will come way later, like in about 6 months as I feel like that site will have potential for something bigger. .

    I did put a responsive google adsense banner in the place after the article though…it doesn’t look bad.

    But do you think I should drop the adsense and wait for traffic to build and my plan for the site to develop?

    Does Google like google ads?

    • You know that’s a great question Alison, when it comes to ads in general, if there’s too many of them on a site, too early, it can look bad for Google or if there’s many links in general, but when it comes to the ads actually being associated with Google itself, that’s another story and frankly, I don’t see any harm from an SEO point, that putting them on your page would hurt.

      What would hurt however, and I addressed this in a previous question you had regarding Adsense, is your profits overall because I do not look at it as a serious money maker.

  9. I never knew that using affiliate links to early could affect your ability to rise through the Google ranks. I am a learner and I own a new website too. I am afraid I am a culprit when it came to your don’ts on the abuse of affiliate links.

    In fact my first post had affiliate links all over it. I think I am going to have to go over every post now and make some adjustments. Will that change things for me even if the harm has already been done?

    Thanks again for a great post!

    • It depends on how much authority and traffic your site is getting. Best case scenario, if it’s already getting daily organic visits, you need not worry about anything. Worst case, all that can happen is that your site won’t rank high as fast.

      Ultimately whether you are in a good or bad situation, nothing will work better than continuing to write more content and gaining Google’s trust. It is good that you are keeping the links to a minimum. I would make sure even your most promoted posts also have few of them, but once you clean this up, keep that main content creation as a main focus.

  10. Thanks Vitaliy for the great advice.

    I think the problem I have whenever I start a new site is a sense of agitation…I urge myself to create as many posts until, say, the first 100 posts as a milestone.

    But I wouldn’t want to create a few “good quality Google-worthy posts with affiliate link” and fill other posts with rubbish “blah” content. So it takes me a day (at least) to create each and every post, put my heart in it. The result makes me want to monetize, and I end up placing an affiliate link in every single page.

    So I get the idea, I should do an internal link instead.

    I’m a little surprised though. You can have a link every 100 words? Still seems a lot. Thanks again, for a very informative article.


    • That is just a linking reference I use Ray, if you feel like it’s too much linking, you can always do it less. And if you already set such a high goal of getting that many articles, get to that goal first and start putting up affiliate links after maybe 50 posts. By that time, usually you will see that “boom” period I talked about.

  11. Thanks so much. Your article answered a lot of questions for me. I’ve often wondered at what point do affiliate links harm ranking.

    I appreciate your focus on quality, informative content. It’s so important to have a generous spirit when writing content. For me, focusing on helping my visitor makes my job far more enjoyable.

    Building websites just to make money is small-minded and ultimately counter-productive.

  12. What you said makes sense. Besides Google identifying a site littered with affiliate links as a bridge site, having too much outbound link MAY distract readers to other sites rather than interact with your own.

    I guess building up the traffic and our own mailing list should be our priority. And having good quality content is one of the best way to do so.

    • I would worry more about the traffic first Kenny, then you can use the mailing list to collect and re-cycle incoming traffic to new content you create rather than just using it to sell stuff.

  13. Thanks for the great info! I am guilty of this, after all it’s human nature to want to make money right away. I started my site in July and quickly wanted to put links up to offers. I will back off a bit and build content instead. I am happy so far all my targeted keywords rank in the first page of google. Really no traffic yet but I am focusing on the process instead of the result for now. If I may ask, how long does it take for Google to trust a new site?

    • Hi Pierre, as I showed in that graph above, there’s a few months between the time you start the site to the time it gains that authority (call it trust too) to rank better.


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