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We have a site which includes paid banner and sidebar ads (not part of an advertising network). The ads are simple images/gifs which are linked to the advertiser's (external) site.

The links go through an internal redirect like:

example.com/advert-redirect?id=123&url=http://advertiser.com.

What's the most appropriate way to apply a nofollow on this type of link?

I'm concerned that search engines will see this as a nofollow on internal links (when they're actually not).

One possible solution is to use robots.txt to block example.com/advert-redirect. Is this a suitable option?

  • Using a sneaky redirect to hide a outbound link would be considered cloaking and if your having to hide affiliates then your meeting their Quality guidelines on "Participating in affiliate programs without adding sufficient value" since good affiliates add value and if your having to hide them then that speaks a thousand words. Ditch the redirect and use a external link that both your visitors and search engines can see before clinking them. – Simon Hayter Feb 14 '17 at 14:57
  • @SimonHayter sorry, but what you said above is plain wrong. Here are some respected and knowledgeable people from the marketing niche with their - completely opposite - take: Rae Hoffman Aaron Wall Joost de Valk – Bartek Feb 14 '17 at 15:03
  • Rubbish @Bartek, read Google's policy on Participating in affiliate programs... hiding it is in violation of their policy. Link to something official... far to busy to read blog posts from non Google employees. – Simon Hayter Feb 14 '17 at 15:12
  • @SimonHayter the redirects are in no way a "sneaky attempt to hide the outbound link". Its simply a mechanism which allows us to track clicks. The destination url is visible as part of the query string (although I appreciate not everyone will see this). Also, this is just simple banner ads for companies in a niche area - not an affiliate programme. – James Feb 14 '17 at 15:14
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    @James Paid links are fine just use the nofollow but you should avoid using a redirect. If you want to track stats for the adverts then you can use JavaScript or Google Analytics to track that data. Absolutely no reason to hide the URL from users or search engines, unless the adverts are ones that Google may dislike... – Simon Hayter Feb 14 '17 at 15:39
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Yes, this will work, but I do not understand what are you concerned about. Paid links/banners etc. should have nofollow tag (at least according to Google's guidelines, but that's something completely different). Technically, it does not matter whether you have it as link attribute or redirect via disallowed directory.

Another option is to use X-Robots-Tag as a custom header. This approach is even better, because you are not disclosing in robots.txt what you don't want search engines to see/index (this is to protect mainly from your competition).

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Both will work, and both will help you in paid advertising.

The nofollow link is nofollow, it's don't care weather it is external or internal. It do same thing.

Special note : Google can crawl Nofollow links, so if they land on some advertising website, and see malicious and not safe content, then it might hurts your website. But it will be fine for most of paid advertising, when the landing page is good.

The robots.txt is something I recommended it in your case, because it completely block the Google spider. Google own ads network use robots.txt because if they use nofollow links, then it can be crawled and land on different website, based on Google User Agent, IP address, and device.

I know you're not redirecting anything, but you're using internal links redirect which is very very easily handle by below robots.txt

User-agent: *
Disallow: /advert-redirect*

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